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Ridden to the Max: 2018 Ski-Doo MXZ Blizzard 850

You can’t go wrong with the Blizzard 850. Under its hood lies a potent Rotax 850 twin and its pDrive system that puts upwards of 165-hp to the snow via its 129-inch Ice Ripper track. JBassett Photo.

If you missed out on the “Spring Only” MXZ X-RS 850, don’t miss out on the Blizzard 850!

Ski-Doo stylists seem to nail the “look” of its sleds better than just about any other sled maker, here giving the Blizzard 850 a performance feel even at rest. JBassett Photo.

Blizzard for 2018 retains its proud heritage in Ski-Doo lineage. It’s the name that replaced T’NT decades ago as the factory’s racing model back when Ski-Doo battled Arctic Cat, Polaris, Yamaha and, yes, Scorpion and Mercury on the iced ovals of Sno Pro racing. The Blizzard name spawned themed apparel and specialty accessories. In the world of 2018 Ski-Dooing, that hasn’t changed as you can buy select apparel and accessories to match a new Blizzard.

We especially like the Ski-Doo Blizzard 850’s ergonomics. The tunnel and seat work compliantly to emphasize what we would call performance-comfort. JBassett Photo.

The sled has changed, though, even from model year 2017 to now. Yes, the “base” Blizzard with choices of a 600cc ETEC or two three-cylinder 4-strokes of 899cc or 1170cc. It’s the big gun that everyone should want. The 2018 MXZ Blizzard 850, with the newest and biggest displacement Rotax E-TEC twin, is claimed to be about as efficient as a two-stroke motor gets. With power north of 160 horses at 7900 revs, this engine measures 849cc with a bore and stroke of 82mm by 80.4mm and weighs about 93 pounds “dry.”

We give the RAS3 front suspension high marks for cornering agility and straight-ahead bump absorption. Its HPG Plus adjustable shocks do a commendable job of managing the 8.7-inches of travel. JBassett Photo.

You want this model because it is the most advanced in both powertrain and chassis design. The base Blizzard is very good, too, but uses the “old” chassis and previous generation RAS2 front suspension as well as the older ETEC 600cc motor. We fully expect that twin to be phased out and replaced with the new “6” as featured in Ski-Doo’s full-on MXZx 600RS racer. We will be looking to see a 600cc version of Gen-4 platforms underpinning various 2019 models next Spring when the new models are unveiled.

That said, you can’t go wrong with the Blizzard 850. It’s a nice step below the fully kitted “Spring Only” MXZ X-RS 850 or MXZ X 850 but a step up from the full season availability of the “base” MXZ TNT 850. Under the hood, the MXZ 850s share the newest 850 twin and its pDrive system to put power through an rMotion rear suspension. Up front the Blizzard 850 offers Ski-Doo’s innovative Pilot TS skis that let you literally dial in up to one-half inch of ski bite over 20 clicks of adjustment. There isn’t anything else like it for model year 2018. While it may seem gimmicky, it works!

The GEN4 chassis works, too. Engineered simultaneously with the new 850 twin, the chassis allows central placement of the drive system, which can be felt as you make side to side turns. Where the previous chassis presented a weight bias, the new configuration settles the engine smack in the center and down low for an enhanced center of gravity. This GEN4 platform, as Ski-Doo calls it, is a final evolution to balancing the sled and letting rider inputs determine on trail actions. We notice that Ski-Doo’s 2018 MXZx 600RS race sled further enhances the performance platform. We suspect we’ll see updates based on the Ski-Doo racing experience in future MXZ and Blizzard models.

Blizzard 850 has a standard 129-inch Ice Ripper XT track, which features mini-carbide studs imbedded in the 1.25 lugs, generates above average grip for holeshots and quick turning. The seating position is comfortable as you’d expect from the company that pioneered ride-forward design. JBassett Photo.

For now, we can report that while our favorite 2018 Ski-Doo remains the MXZ X-RS 850, given the opportunity we’d greedily accept a Blizzard 850. It does everything well. With a year’s worth of real world evolution, we find the power delivery excellent from drive off to top end. Since Ski-Doo worked hard to create strong mid-range performance by adding in a set of power boosters to get your attention at mid-throttle, you can expect to feel and experience exceptional midrange. When compared head-to-head to Yamaha’s 200-horsepower Sidewinder, the Blizzard will reflect its 35-horsepower deficit. Compared to any other normally aspirated 800cc two-stroke, the Blizzard is as strong as any other 2018 performance trail sled.

Suspension-wise the Blizzard scores excellent grades. Give the new RAS3 front suspension high marks for cornering agility and straight-ahead bump absorption. The HPG Plus adjustable shocks do a commendable job of managing the 8.7-inches of travel. A similar set of shocks control the rMotion’s 10.7-inches of travel. By now most snowmobilers are familiar with the rMotion, an innovative design that allows a vast range of adjustment to suit most every rider from the true hardcore to the serious high-miler. The RAS3 and rMotion complement each other very well and can be tuned for maximum compatibility.

The Blizzard features an aluminum handlebar with curved ends and easy-to-reach controls. JBassett Photo.

We especially like the Ski-Doo Blizzard 850’s ergonomics. The tunnel and seat work compliantly to emphasize what we would call performance-comfort. The tunnel has a tapering that blends with what Ski-Doo calls its “Performance” trail seat. Like other saddles in this sled class, it offers up a wide rear fanny-platform for cruising comfort that narrows toward the front for cornering ease. Even that “open” architecture “Ergo-Step” side panels for your feet that we lament doesn’t bother as much on these 2018 Gen4 models. Ski-Doo accessory engineers offer solutions if you want a truly secure foot position. Heck, we noticed that a number of the 2018 Ski-Doo Gen4 demo models at the test evaluations were fitted with adjustable foot holds. That got us past complaining.

Most snowmobilers are familiar with the rMotion, an innovative design with HPG Plus shocks that control its 10.7-inches of travel and allows a vast range of adjustment to suit most every rider from the true hardcore to the serious high-miler. JBassett Photo.

In basic trail riding, the Blizzard 850 simply works! With a standard 129-inch Ice Ripper XT track, which features mini-carbide studs imbedded in the 1.25 lugs, the sled generates above average grip for holeshots and quick turning. The seating position is comfortable as you’d expect from the company that pioneered ride-forward design. The multi-function gauge is very readable and handlebar controls can be adjusted easily.

As you’d expect the Blizzard 850 can be customized with a catalog of gear that can help set your sled apart from the crowd. If you missed out on plunking money down on a Spring Buy MXZ X-RS 850, don’t let the MXZ Blizzard 850 E-TEC pass you by. It’s our second favorite Ski-Doo for 2018 — just after the MXZ X-RS 850!

Specifications

 

 
2018 Ski-Doo MXZ Blizzard 850
Engine Rotax 849cc, liquid-cooled two-cylinder 2-stroke; Rotax “ETEC” electronic direct injection with power booster injectors
HP 165 @ 7900 rpm (claimed)
Drive Ski-Doo/Rotax pDrive with QRS; engagement @ 3600 rpm
Suspension:
Front RAS-3 double A-arm with HPG Plus aluminum bodied gas shocks; up to 8.7 inches of travel; Pilot TS ski standard
Rear rMotion parallel slide rail with aluminum body HPG Plus shocks; up to 10.7-inches of travel
Dimensions:

Length

Height

Width

Ski Stance

Track:

 

118.5 inches

48.1 inches

47.9 inches

42.4 inches

15 x 129 x 1.25 Ice Ripper XT

Brake Brembo hydraulic racing brake system with braided stainless steel line
Weight 487 lbs (Claimed)
Fuel Tank 9.5 US Gal (91 Octane premium fuel)
Features Generation 4 REV platform; gauge with LCD screen; trail performance seat; push button mechanical reverse; standard electric start; 4.7-inch riser block; aluminum handlebar with J-hooks
PRICE US$ US$13,649.00
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